My name is Ollin, and I’m a Writer.

(This post was inspired by the wonderfully talented and witty Jessie Shires who wrote a post on a similar subject. Hers concerned being hesitant over being called a “poet.”)

I’m a writer.

That’s so easy to say to myself, and to call myself this on my blog. But the truth is (and yes you may call me a coward) I find it hard admitting this in real life to strangers or acquaintances.

Especially when someone asks the question:

“So, what do YOU do?”

(I’m a writer.) I think. But I say…

Well, right now I’m teaching theater, and I was a tutor for a while, before that I did substitute teaching, and maybe I might go to grad school, debating becoming a full-time teaching, I still do some acting once in a while… um… um… (What else do you want me to say to make you feel comfortable, to make you fill that big blank space that you think should be filled with something like: “I’m curing cancer” “I’m a mother of 3” “I’m starting my own business” “I’m staring a Ph.D. program” etc. etc. etc.???)

Pathetic right? There are other writers more courageous than me, like Lua, who in point-blank range told an old law school classmate that yes she had quit law school to pursue a career as a writer and to get her Masters in Creative Writing. She stood proud and strong in who she was and she didn’t flinch once. Which is what every writer should be able to do at all times.

I admire her for that.

But as for me, well…

To take a cue from Jesse... when I hear the word “writer,” an image comes to mind that is not so flattering:

A young man in his 20’s, white male. Hasn’t shaved for days. All in black. His legs crossed. His chin up in condescension. He tells you he has a book in the process of being published, it’s not a big publisher, but that doesn’t matter. He’s farther a long than you, and he’ll point that out indirectly. He smells of smoke. He eyes you semi-seductively, makes you feel uncomfortable and insecure, probed. He has no job. His rich parents pay his rent. He’s doing several writing workshops, always writing about some abstract topic like “remorse,” never anything specific. The characters are flat and one-dimensional, nothing original or daring about it. He’s been writing the same book for years, thinks criticism from others is not to be taken seriously. He knows more than them, he’ll keep writing his way. He knows more about literature than you do, and he’ll indirectly you make you know it. He’s got big connections you never met, but you assume exist somewhere. He can write your book better than you do, and he indirectly makes you know it.

Why that image comes to mind, I don’t know. But maybe it’s because that is the image that I believe others conjure up in their head whenever I begin to say that “I am a writer.”

After the “I am” it’s all downhill from there. As I hang on the “w” they already suspect my life is not stable. As I curl my tongue up for the “r,” they figure that I’m a love obsessed, sex obsessed, emotional-charged, basket-case. As I hang open my mouth on the “i” they assume I’m full of myself. The “t” comes, and they already know that I don’t follow the normal path, and that makes me an outsider. Then comes the “e” and they figure I’ll never amount to anything, and I’m wasting my time. Then the second “r,” and the repetition of letters makes it clear to them that I must be delusional, out of touch, a little weird.

Jesse’s post had me wondering: why is it so hard for me to admit that I’m a writer in person, to strangers or acquaintances? Why can’t I just say what I want to say?

My name is Ollin. I’m a writer. I’m writing a novel. That is all I’m doing. That’s enough. I’m complete. I don’t need to attach anything to that. No degrees, no large-scale activism, no ring on the finger from a lover, no adventurous or outrageous travel experiences, no interesting connections or VIP’s that are my friends, no big house, or million dollar bank account, no fancy car, or large investment, or big company, or fancy title, or large-scale community project. JUST ME! I’M A WRITER! THAT’S ALL! BUT THAT’S ENOUGH! THAT’S MORE THAN ENOUGH!

I’m Ollin. I’m a writer. It takes up a lot of my time. I love it, and I don’t want anything else. I’m perfectly happy with what I am doing.

So if you ask me what do I do, I will always tell you, from now on, whether I know you or not, that I’m a writer. I’ll be a writer for the rest of my life. I’m writing a book. It’s exciting, it’s fulfilling, it’s a work of love, it’s a worthwhile endeavor, and there’s not much else you need to know about me other than that.

Don’t think that is very interesting? Ok. But… you don’t have to think it’s interesting. I do.

So if that doesn’t satisfy you as an answer to the question: “What do YOU do?” Then you can find someone else who will lie to you, so that you can feel more comfortable.

I’m done lying, or filling the blank with what people want to hear–or what I THINK they want to hear.

Hi. I’m Ollin. I’m a writer.

And. That’s. Enough.

much love,

Ollin

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36 comments on “My name is Ollin, and I’m a Writer.

  1. Damn right! Good luck on being honest about it, because it’s nothing to be ashamed of!

    You’re a creator! An artist! A man with goals, and dreams, and an imagination beyond anyone who’s going to eye you judgmentally!

    You’re fantastic, and a hell of a writer, and don’t forget it!

    • Thank you sooo much! It’s not that I’m ashamed of it, it’s just I’m afraid of when the not so supportive people will bite, you know? I guess I fear I won’t be able to take their little judgmental looks, and I think it is easier to just give them what they want so they could nod and smile and just leave me alone. But you are right, it isn’t true to myself and it isn’t fair to myself, and with your words of encouragement I’ll move forward more confidently!🙂

  2. Well said!!

    I might be the opposite of you. I don’t mind saying I’m a writer. I’m proud of it. I know it’s an accomplishment. My problem is: do I have a right to say I’m a writer? Should I say it before I’ve actually produced any proof? Because no one gets to read my rough drafts. (They’re awful.) And I hardly have time to write. I go to college and work and basically intend to write but spend a great deal of time reading and pontificating about what I’ll write – one day.

    It’s not that I don’t write daily – because I do. But most of it is blog posts, emails, scraps of poetry, half-thoughts, essays and papers (for school), critiques (for fellow writers), reviews of literature, etc, etc.

    I love history. I want to recreate it, but the idea of actually doing it is so overwhelming I feel cocky taking on the task. Like, once I really claim the job, I have to live up to it, and I don’t know if I’m good enough.

    So I dance around the notion that I’m a writer and say ‘I’m a writer’ because I am one in intent, heart, and hope. But in practice? I’m still getting there.

    Is it a lie to say you’re a writer when you write every day but do it for the joy rather than the profit? What if you figure you’ll wait until you feel comfortable or bold or just give up being scared, and then you’ll write, not because you want to sell, but because once upon a time you wrote a whole novel and loved it – before anyone read it. What if you like writing until people suggest they’ll want to read it, and then rules and marketing and ‘this is how you open a story’ articles encase the fragile thing in granite expectation until you can only stand before your stacks of literature and say, ‘They were writers. I just wanted to tell a story. Maybe, in the end, that’s all they wanted, too.’

    I can say I’m a writer. I just don’t know if it’s true.

    • Very good point, Corra!

      Like you said, that’s the opposite of me, so I’m not sure if I can shed any light on your dilemma. I write all the time, and yet I’m afraid to admit I’m a writer, you don’t, but have a passion for it and have the end goal and mind, and you tell everyone you are a writer.

      Maybe we should both stop worrying about the issue and just be ourselves shall we? Let’s stop with all the doubt, and go with what we feel in our gut is true for the both of us? We ARE writers–whether we are currently writing or not.

      Who cares what other people think? I think what I was trying to get at is that we SHOULDN’T care what other people think. Or define ourselves by other people’s stereotypes or limits or parameters.

      You say you are a writer, then you are a writer. I believe in you if you believe in me.

      If it’s true for you Corra, then it’s true for everyone.

  3. Agatha82 says:

    Yes YOU are a WRITER🙂
    Nothing wrong with that, you know, whilst I was still working in a full time office job, I HATED being asked “what do you do” because I hated that job and so I’d always say “just an office job, nothing interesting…” then I’d say “I’m writing a novel.” that mattered to me more.

    One day, not too long ago, I had my own business cards made, they say WRITER, then, I went further, and quit my full time day job to finish my manuscript. The fact EVERYONE knew I was quitting to write finally did the trick and someting flipped inside my head. For the first time ever, I felt EMPOWERED, like I had taken destiny into my own hands, and so now, I don’t mind what people think when I tell them I’m a writer. They can think whatever…but you know, I’m not rich, nor have I got rich parents paying my rent, so one day, I will have to go back and get another day job, but I will choose wisely and it won’t matter what it is, because the job will not be who I am.

    I am a writer, regardless of what I do to earn a living.

    I wish you the best, I hope one day you earn a living being a writer because that must be a great thing. Something I too, aspire to🙂

    • You are very lucky Agatha! I hope to be able to do that one day. Be able to support myself while I write. Please enjoy it for me and others who don’t have the chance!

      What a courageous and inspiring story. I’d like to be more brave like you and other writers who I admire. Go you!🙂

  4. krisceratops says:

    Seems like there are a lot of writers freshly coming out of the proverbial closet in my blogosphere these days! I have an anecdote myself… but I think it deserves a post of its own.

    It’s interesting because for those of us who follow each other’s blogs, we really only see each other as writers. There are no faces or (audible) voices, just writing. So it is easy for us to accept one another as writers, because that is the only thing we know each other as. But I wonder if we all met in real life, anonymously, would we still be able to pick the writers from the non-writers out of the room? Would we stay closeted, or concede writership during the small talk portion of a meet-and-greet? Hmm.

    • What a great question. Makes me realize how much more I need to let people know that I am a writer, because in lying or not telling the whole truth, I might be alienating the very people who would identify with me!

      You are right–more writers need to come out!

  5. Lua says:

    Way to go Ollin!!!🙂
    God, reading this post made me want to stand up and shout, “there you go world- we are writers! That’s right, proud writers!”

    “After the “I am” it’s all downhill from there. As I hang on the “w” they already suspect my life is not stable. As I curl my tongue up for the “r,” they figure that I’m a love obsessed, sex obsessed, emotional-charged, basket-case. As I hang open my mouth on the “i” they assume I’m full of myself. The “t” comes, and they already know that I don’t follow the normal path, and that makes me an outsider. Then comes the “e” and they figure I’ll never amount to anything, and I’m wasting my time. Then the second “r,” and the repetition of letters makes it clear to them that I must be delusional, out of touch, a little weird.”

    This is the perfect description of ‘that’ moment when I tell people what I do. They wait to hear more. They act like I’ve just stepped out the door half-naked and they look at me like they’re saying ‘why are you half naked? Where are the rest of your clothes, the society expects you to wear more fabric!”
    I guess the society is just going to learn to expect us, writers, because I don’t see us going anywhere anytime soon🙂

    • Nope, we aint’ going anywhere! Thank you Lua for being an inspiration and a role model for me and other writers! You’re post made me realized how cowardly I was being, I have nothing to be afraid of!

      I am writer… hear me… type!🙂

  6. In a high school creative writing class, we were challenged to write an original poem in the style of a poem by one of our favourite poets. I chose “I am Nobody, Who are You?’ by Emily Dickinson and changed it to: “I Am A Writer! Who are You?” Everybody I know, knows that I write. People tend to meet me at work, so I rarely get asked “So what do you do?” because then, that would be obvious. “Well, you see, to start with, I work here…” Yeah. No.

    I don’t think personally that I will have the gumption to say “I am a Writer” until I’ve got a published something to show for it. For now, it’s, “I work part-time at Staples, I am a full-time college student (History Major, Writing Minor), I am volunteer-staff with a community non-profit youth issue-oriented improv troupe, and in my free time (HAH) I am working on a novel.”

    At that point, people tend to ask, “A novel? Really? My uncle’s-brother’s-cousin’s-dog is writing a novel! What’s it about?”

    “Well, it’s a fantasy story abou-”

    “Oh, I see, that’s interesting. Well, I have to run! It’s been nice seeing you!”

    I lose more people on the “fantasy” than I do on the “writing”.

    GOOD FOR YOU for standing up, proud and true, and screaming who you are from the mountaintops. 🙂

    • Thank you! We’ll I have this conversation with many other writers, and we’ve all seemed to agree that it doesn’t matter whether you are published or not. You are a writer if that is you passion and your love. If that’s how you define yourself then everyone else will just have to deal. It’s your life, not theirs.

      Thanks for dropping by!🙂

  7. T.S. Bazelli says:

    I have the same dilemma and was going to write up a blog post about it sometime. I don’t tell people I’m a writer. Not even my family knows I’m a writer, and for some reason I’m hesitant to let them know. When people ask me “What do you do?” I usually reply with my day job, even though a writer is what I am deep down at the core. Maybe it’s too personal, and that’s why I’m scared to say something, especially when I have nothing to show for all my efforts so far. Is that sad?

    • I completely understand. It’s the exact same feeling. I think there’s a need to protect our writer selfs because its an identity that is so precious and delicate to us. So much is thrown against us, and we (or at least I) fear that people who are not sensitive to writers will judge me or put me down. And I just don’t have the energy to have to combat these people, or to pick myself up after they’ve brought me down. So i find it much easier to brush them away by telling them what they want to hear.

      But I shouldn’t have to lie about who I am to anyone. So that is changing from me. It’s a big change, a hard one, but an important move forward.

  8. amanda says:

    Hi Ollin–I’ve been seeing your name around, so thought I would pop over. Excellent post –the great debate of “titles” for a writer goes on. I know what you mean. Often it seems if you haven’t published multiple (well-known) books, the general public does not agree that you are a writer. But, writers write, right?

    You may want to check out Jan O’Hara’s funny post on this topic ( Her usage of “pre-published” is my favorite.) http://cherrytart.wordpress.com/2010/07/09/lets-talk-titles/ Best to you~

  9. […] made the mistake of reading Ollin’s most recent post, which is a dangerous thing to do when trying to be productive. He was boldly declaring his chosen […]

  10. junebugger says:

    Aw, Ollin. This was so uplifting. I’m always asked: “What are you going to do with you English/History major?” I want to say I’m taking these courses because it’ll benefit my writing. But I know they’ll immediately judge me, thinking: “A writer?? Writers can’t make money…everyone wants to be a writer these days…I could probably write a book if I wanted” Reading this article, however, has given me the truth to state my aspirations and be proud of it.

    • Yeah I know how you feel. You don’t want to say you’re a writer because you know there are so many people out there that say that they want to be a writer but don’t really mean it. And you don’t want to be mistaken for them. But like I said, who cares what others think. We shouldn’t be afraid to state who we really are.

  11. unabridgedgirl says:

    Yay, Ollin! (Instert confetti throwing here.) I am glad that you can now say that you’re a writer. It is SO hard! I have the same issues. Sometimes I can confidently say, “I am a writer. I write.” Other times, like you, I go on and on, trying to say something I think will make the other person comfortable. Lately I say, “I am an office manager by day and a writer by night.” LoL

    • I know! Don’t you always feel like you have to add something to the writer part? That isn’t fair. We shouldn’t be defined by our day jobs, but by who we are.

      Thanks for the confetti!🙂

  12. Barb says:

    I had become known at my day job as “the artist who does comics”… at some point I stopped drawing altogether because I didn’t want to be remembered like that!😉 I resumed doing it, though, but people don’t seem that interested anymore, neither in graphic novels nor (worse) novels – I have only one colleague who reads a lot, but she doesn’t read fantasy.
    If asked by someone met anywhere else, I guess I’d say I’m a writer… an author, actually, because I’m also an artist!😀
    Great post, be proud of yourself, always! Happy writing!

  13. Power to the writers!!!! Way to go Ollin, this is a wonderful piece of writing and self-examination.

  14. Johnson says:

    Outstanding sentiments, well said.

    Related to your “not-so-flattering” mental image: I’ve experienced a similar reluctance of my own, and whenever the question comes up, I hear in my mind Rip Torn, in the movie “Wonder Boys,” sonorously declaring “I … am … a Writer.” It calls to mind everything that is empty and pretentious and wrong.

    But we are not That, and you are quite right: it is More than Enough.

  15. YOU are a writer!
    I am a Poet…
    We are here
    as we were
    You said something
    That I have yet to say
    But
    For now
    I am a Poet

    (It rhymes in my head)

    Thanks Ollin!

  16. […] you haven’t been following my blog until now let me fill you in. I’m Ollin and I’m a writer. I have been writing my first novel while at the same time life keeps throwing crap at me. You get […]

  17. […] you haven’t been following my blog until now let me fill you in. I’m Ollin and I’m a writer. I have been writing my first novel while at the same time life keeps throwing crap at me. You get […]

  18. […] My name is Ollin, and I’m a Writer {This post is about getting over your fear about telling people you are a writer. Turns out nobody cares either way.} […]

  19. YKG says:

    It’s odd but I felt more comfortable saying “I’m a porn and sex toy reviewer for Hotmoviesforher and Fetishmovies” than I do about saying “I’m a writer, a novelist.” Why is that? Probably because the one paid, not well but enough, was interesting and relatable. Some people think that any thing that falls under the category of sex work is a dirty thing, still I didn’t hesitate at parties, elementary schools, family gatherings or other people’s church functions to happily inform strangers that I was indeed a dirty dirty sex worker.

    Now that that’s over and I’m spending all my time ‘working’ for myself I’m still hesitating (see the dubious ” around working even now) and I don’t know entirely why. There’s a fear there, a very personal one. Something so personal it trumps talking about relationships, porn, sex toys or my bodies reaction to various toys and lubricants in graphic detail.

    So I hesitate.

    But it’s time now to throw that all behind me. I used to get asked a lot to post stories on my player characters from the role-playing games Morrowind and Oblivion. I always used to decline because they’d take too much time away from writing novels. I have more time now and I’m posting my character stories along with others, on my blog at SarahakaLegion.com. Also, I’m hoping to publish my first book “The Uncertainty of Death” sometime this month (fingers crossed).

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